Sunrise Movement

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Sunrise Movement
Sunrise Movement Logo.jpg
FoundedApril 2017 in Washington, D.C.[1]
Legal status501(c)(4)
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Area served
United States

Sunrise Movement is an American youth-led political movement coordinated by Sunrise, a 501(c)(4) political action organization that advocates political action on climate change. When first incorporated in 2017, the group's goal was to elect proponents of renewable energy in the 2018 midterm elections,[2] first in the Democratic primaries and then in the general election. After the election, the organization has been focused on gaining a consensus within the Democratic Party in support of an environmental program known as the Green New Deal.

Together with Justice Democrats and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the group organized a sit-in in the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, which brought Sunrise its first significant press coverage.[3] Sunrise organized a similar event in February 2019, bringing a group of young people to confront Senator Dianne Feinstein in her office.


Banner "We have 12 years, what is your plan?" (2019).

In the summer of 2013, Evan Weber, Matthew Lichtash, and environmentalist Michael K. Dorsey used a $30,000 grant plus free office space provided by the Sierra Club and the Wesleyan University Green Fund to draft an ambitious plan for climate action, which was the basis for the incorporation of the US Climate Plan 501(c)(3) nonprofit (aka Sunrise Movement Education Fund) incorporated in January 2014.[1]

Sara Blazevic and Varshini Prakash started the Sunrise Movement on the East Coast in 2015. Blazevic, Prakash, and other early leaders trained at Momentum, an organization that teaches community organizing.[4]

The Sunrise Movement launched as a 501(c)(4) in 2017.[2] During the 2018 midterms, they worked to oust candidates who would not refuse funding from the fossil fuel industry and to elect proponents of renewable energy.[1] Half of the group's first 20 endorsements won their elections. Deb Haaland, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar won election to the House of Representatives and six other endorsed candidates won election to state house or senate seats in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.[5]

After the 2018 elections, the Sunrise Movement has focused on the climate change proposals collectively known as the Green New Deal, whose core principles have been described as "decarbonization, jobs, and justice."[3] Its proposals include a transition to renewable energy, expanded public transportation, and an economic plan to drive job growth. Several publications have reported that the Green New Deal opposes nuclear power and carbon capture as well as some other technologies.[6][7] However, Senator Ed Markey, the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the United States Senate, stated that the resolution's language is technology-agnostic and does not exclude nuclear power or carbon capture.[8]

In March 2019, a group of activists in the UK called on the Labour Party to commit to taking radical steps to decarbonize the UK economy within a decade. Calling their movement "Labour for a Green New Deal," a group spokesperson said they got their inspiration from the Sunrise Movement and the work that Ocasio-Cortez has done in the US. Group members have met with Zack Exley, co-founder of the progressive group Justice Democrats, to learn from the experiences that he and Ocasio-Cortez have had in working for the Green New Deal campaign in the US.[9]

In the summer of 2020, the Sunrise Movement has started to do Wide Awake [10] actions, in which movement members show up at politicians' houses early in the morning, chanting and making noise to wake them up.


November 2018 sit-in[edit]

After taking control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats disagreed about the best way to address climate change with legislation.[11] Sunrise planned a sit-in in Pelosi's office and asked Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to help them publicize the event, which she instead decided to join herself.[3][12] The sit-in demands were that all members of the Democratic leadership in the House would refuse donations from the fossil fuel industry, and that Pelosi work to build consensus in the House over Green New Deal legislation to be passed when Democrats regain control of government.[13] The latter would be accomplished by a "Committee on a Green New Deal". The sit-in took place on November 13. Over 250 protesters showed up to occupy Pelosi's office, with 51 being arrested by Capitol Police.[13][14] Representative Rashida Tlaib voiced support for the protest over social media.[13] Representative Pelosi responded by welcoming the protest over Twitter, offering to reinstate the Committee on the Climate Crisis and noting that the already-promised infrastructure bill could address many of the Sunrise Movement's concerns.[14]

Green New Deal Committee[edit]

Rallies in Chicago for a Green New Deal (2019).

One major goal has been to create a select committee on the Green New Deal, a plan opposed by some in the Democratic House leadership.[15]

The Sunrise Movement continued to campaign for House members to sign onto the plan to create a select committee for the Green New Deal, as opposed to simply resurrecting the old committee. On December 10, they staged a second sit-in at the offices of Nancy Pelosi and Jim McGovern. Over 1000 protesters showed up.[16][17] By December 19, 40 members of Congress had signed on to support the creation of the committee.[3]

Instead, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer decided to recreate the Committee on the Climate Crisis, appointing Representative Kathy Castor as chair.[3]

Meeting with Senator Feinstein[edit]

In February 2019, several San Francisco Bay Area children along with their adult sponsors met with Senator Dianne Feinstein to urge her to vote to support Green New Deal legislation. Feinstein told the children that she is working on an alternative bill, and that she could not support the proposed legislation which she believes is "unworkable" and has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. However, she allowed that she might vote for it as a symbolic gesture. The Sunrise Movement shared a video of the interaction, shortened so that it "focused on clips of the most tense moments" via social media and on its website. The shortened version has been viewed more than three million times.[18][19] Sunrise also later posted the longer, unedited video on Facebook, resulting in controversy over whether the short version emphasized scenes intended to make Feinstein appear less sympathetic to the viewer.[20][failed verification] Senator Feinstein characterized the discussion as "spirited", while the executive director of the Sunrise movement said that Feinstein's treatment of the students was evidence that the Democratic Party required "fundamental change".[21]

Climate change debate campaign[edit]

Sunrise Movement banner dropped in front of a DNC meeting (2019).

In early 2019, the Sunrise Movement defined one of its major goals as pressuring the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to hold a single-issue presidential debate on climate change.[22] The DNC currently bars candidates from participating in outside debates (defined as multiple candidates on stage interacting with each other) but has no policy regarding participation in outside forums and town halls.[23]

On June 26, 2019, Sunrise Movement activists slept on the steps of the DNC office in Washington, D.C. to protest the lack of focus of the Democratic primary debates on the climate crisis, and to call for a focused debate on climate change.[24] On July 25, CNN and MSNBC announced they would be hosting a climate change Town Hall and Forum, respectively.[25] On August 22, the DNC Resolutions Committee voted 8–17 against hosting a DNC presidential climate change debate.[26] During the session, a resolution was passed to allow multiple candidates to appear on a stage together at a climate change town hall or forum. However, in the breakout session on August 24, the resolution was voted down 222–137, with the DNC chair voting no.[27]

Wide Awake campaign[edit]

In the summer of 2020, the Sunrise Movement began performing Wide Awake demonstrations, in which a group of protestors would gather outside a politician's house and make noise early in the morning. The movement was inspired by the 1860 Wide Awakes, and is in protest of issues including police brutality and climate change.[28] Politicians who have been "woken up" during these demonstrations include Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Larry Hogan, Bill Barr, and Betsy DeVos.[29][30]

Political endorsements[edit]

On November 27, 2019 the Sunrise Movement announced a 2020 presidential endorsement process wherein members would decide whether or not to endorse a candidate, and if so, who that candidate should be.[31] On January 9, 2020 it was announced that the Sunrise Movement would endorse US Senator Bernie Sanders for president. Sanders won handily with 76% of the 3,028 eligible votes.[32] Elizabeth Warren came in second place with 17.4% of the vote. No other candidates were close, with the next highest percentage of voters opting for "no preference" (1.85%), Pete Buttigieg (1.16%), Andrew Yang (1.02%), Tom Steyer (0.66%), Cory Booker (0.43%), Amy Klobuchar (0.4%), Joe Biden (0.36%), and Marianne Williamson and Tulsi Gabbard (0.17% each). John Delaney and Michael Bennet received zero votes.


Sunrise Movement endorsed 16 federal and state-wide candidates in the 2018 election cycle.

State Executive Officials[edit]

Candidate State Office Primary date Primary result % General result %
Andrew Gillum Florida Florida Governor of Florida August 28, 2018 Won 34.3% Lost 49.19%
Ben Jealous Maryland Maryland Governor of Maryland June 26, 2018 Won 39.8% Lost 43.5%
Abdul El-Sayed Michigan Michigan Governor of Michigan August 7, 2018 Lost 30.2% Did not qualify N/A
Dana Nessel Michigan Michigan Attorney General of Michigan August 7, 2018 Won 100% Won 49.04%
Cynthia Nixon New York (state) New York Governor of New York September 13, 2018 Lost 34.4% Withdrew[n 1] N/A
Jumaane Williams New York (state) New York Lieutenant Governor of New York September 13, 2018 Lost 46.6% Did not qualify N/A

U.S. Senate[edit]

Candidate State Office Primary date Primary result % General result %
Kevin de León California California U.S. Senator from California June 5, 2018 Advanced 12.07% Lost 45.84%

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Candidate State Office Primary date Primary result % General result %
Kaniela Ing Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii's 1st congressional district August 11, 2018 Lost 6.4% Did not qualify N/A
Ayanna Pressley Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts's 7th congressional district September 4, 2018 Won 58.6% Won 98.2%
Rashida Tlaib Michigan Michigan Michigan's 13th congressional district August 7, 2018[n 2] Lost 35.9% Did not qualify N/A
August 7, 2018 Won 31.2% Won 84.6%
Ilhan Omar Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota's 5th congressional district August 14, 2018 Won 48.4% Won 78.2%
Kara Eastman Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska's 2nd congressional district May 15, 2018 Won 51.4% Lost 49.0%
Deb Haaland New Mexico New Mexico New Mexico's 1st congressional district June 5, 2018 Won 40.57% Won 59.1%
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez New York (state) New York New York's 14th congressional district June 26, 2018 Won 57.5% Won 78.2%
Jess King Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district May 15, 2018 Won 100% Lost 41.4%
Randy Bryce Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin's 1st congressional district August 14, 2018 Won 59.6% Lost 42.3%


Fifteen candidates were endorsed by Sunrise Movement in the 2020 election cycle.

U.S. President[edit]

Candidate Office Primaries Primary result % General result %
Bernie Sanders President of the United States 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries Withdrew 27% Did not qualify N/A

U.S. Senate[edit]

Candidate State Office Primary date Primary result % General result %
Andrew Romanoff Colorado Colorado U.S. Senator from Colorado June 30, 2020 Lost 41.3% Did not qualify N/A
Charles Booker Kentucky Kentucky U.S. Senator from Kentucky June 23, 2020 Lost 42.6% Did not qualify N/A
Ed Markey (inc.) Massachusetts Massachusetts U.S. Senator from Massachusetts September 1, 2020 Won 55.4% Pending Pending
Marquita Bradshaw Tennessee Tennessee U.S. Senator from Tennessee August 6, 2020 Won 35.1% Pending Pending
Paula Jean Swearengin West Virginia West Virginia U.S. Senator from West Virginia June 9, 2020 Won 38% Pending Pending

U.S. House[edit]

Candidate State Office Primary date Primary result % General result %
Audrey Denney California California California's 1st congressional district March 3, 2020 Advanced 39.4% Pending Pending
Mike Levin (inc.) California California California's 49th congressional district March 3, 2020 Advanced 56.6% Pending Pending
Robert Emmons Illinois Illinois Illinois's 1st congressional district March 17, 2020 Lost 10.3% Did not qualify N/A
Marie Newman Illinois Illinois Illinois's 3rd congressional district March 17, 2020 Won 47.3% Pending Pending
Alex Morse Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts's 1st congressional district September 1, 2020 Lost 41.2% Did not qualify N/A
Ayanna Pressley (inc.) Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts's 7th congressional district September 1, 2020 Won 100% Pending Pending
Jon Hoadley Michigan Michigan Michigan's 6th congressional district August 4, 2020 Won 52% Pending Pending
Rashida Tlaib (inc.) Michigan Michigan Michigan's 13th congressional district August 4, 2020 Won 66.3% Pending Pending
Ilhan Omar (inc.) Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota's 5th congressional district August 11, 2020 Won 57.4% Pending Pending
Cori Bush Missouri Missouri Missouri's 1st congressional district August 4, 2020 Won 48.6% Pending Pending
Arati Kreibich New Jersey New Jersey New Jersey's 5th congressional district July 7, 2020 Lost 33.5% Did not qualify N/A
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (inc.) New York (state) New York New York's 14th congressional district June 23, 2020 Won 72.6% Pending Pending
Jamaal Bowman New York (state) New York New York's 16th congressional district June 23, 2020 Won 55.5% Pending Pending
Mondaire Jones New York (state) New York New York's 17th congressional district June 23, 2020 Won 44.6% Pending Pending
Morgan Harper Ohio Ohio Ohio's 3rd congressional district April 28, 2020 Lost 31.7% Did not qualify N/A
Michael Siegel Texas Texas Texas's 10th congressional district March 3, 2020
First round
Advanced 44% Runoff N/A
July 14, 2020
Won 54.2% Pending Pending
Heidi Sloan Texas Texas Texas's 25th congressional district March 3, 2020 Lost 30.4% Did not qualify N/A
Julie Oliver Texas Texas Texas's 25th congressional district March 3, 2020 Won 69.6% Pending Pending
Jessica Cisneros Texas Texas Texas's 28th congressional district March 3, 2020 Lost 48.2% Did not qualify N/A
Qasim Rashid Virginia Virginia Virginia's 1st congressional district June 23, 2020 Won 52.8% Pending Pending
Beth Doglio Washington (state) Washington Washington's 10th congressional district August 4, 2020 Advanced 15.16% Pending Pending
Cathy Kunkel West Virginia West Virginia West Virginia's 2nd congressional district June 9, 2020 Won 100% Pending Pending

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Despite losing the primary, Nixon had a slot in the general election as the nominee of the Working Families Party. On October 3, the Working Families Party offered their party's ballot line to the incumbent governor (and winner of the Democratic primary), Andrew Cuomo, and he accepted on October 5.
  2. ^ Special election to replace John Conyers, who resigned on December 5, 2017


  1. ^ a b c Matthews, Mark; Bowlin, Nick; Hulac, Benjamin. "Inside the Sunrise Movement (it didn't happen by accident)". E&E News. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sandoval, Michael (November 21, 2018). "Sunrise Movement Challenges House Democratic Leadership On 'Green New Deal'". Fairfield Sun Times. Retrieved February 26, 2019. The Sunrise Movement is registered as a 501(c)4, and launched with the goal of influencing the 2018 midterm elections, heavily emphasizing climate policies, and uniting volunteers and staff from the divestment movement and protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  3. ^ a b c d e Roberts, David (March 30, 2019). "The Green New Deal, explained". Vox. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  4. ^ Adler-Bell, Sam (February 6, 2019). "The Story Behind the Green New Deal's Meteoric Rise". The New Republic. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  5. ^ "Sunrise Movement Announces First Round of Endorsed Candidates". Medium. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Meyer, Robinson (January 18, 2019). "The Green New Deal Hits Its First Major Snag". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 19, 2019. Sunrise’s explicit goal is to keep average global temperatures from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  7. ^ January 10, 2019 proposal to legislators signed by the Sunrise Movement and 625 other groups
  8. ^ Roberts, David (April 16, 2019). "Sen. Ed Markey: "We are now in the era of the Green New Deal"". Vox. Retrieved April 17, 2019. As you correctly point out, the resolution does not mention nuclear power, it does not mention carbon capture and sequestration, it does not mention banning air travel, it does not mention banning beef in the United States. It does not mention any of those things...Nuclear power is not excluded, but it must compete with renewables. They are cheaper, but that’s the marketplace at work. We’re not excluding it.
  9. ^ Taylor, Matthew. "Labour members launch Green New Deal inspired by US activists". The Guardian. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Sunrise Movement. "We Are Wide Awake"
  11. ^ Cama, Timothy; Lillis, Mike (October 17, 2018). "Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda". The Hill. The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a fierce environmentalist who ushered the cap-and-trade bill through the lower chamber almost a decade ago, declined to comment about the Democrats’ future climate plans.
  12. ^ Wallace-Wells, Benjamin (January 17, 2019). "How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Allies Supplanted the Obama Generation". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 16, 2019. Her first act when she arrived in Washington for new-member orientation was to join the Sunrise Movement’s sit-in outside Pelosi’s office, to call for a select committee for the Green New Deal. It started with a request for a retweet from the activists, who knew the young congresswoman and her staff only slightly. “Alexandria was, like, ‘Shoot them a retweet? I’m going to join it,’ ” Chakrabarti said.
  13. ^ a b c Matthews, Mark (November 14, 2018). "51 arrested for protesting Pelosi. Here's what they want". E&E News. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Grandoni, Dino (November 14, 2018). "The Energy 202: Green protests at Pelosi's office signal rift over Democratic climate strategy". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 14, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  15. ^ Cama, Timothy (November 30, 2018). "Dems rally for Green New Deal". The Hill. Retrieved December 9, 2018. The idea of a select committee has the backing of leading Democrats, including expected Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) But it faces opposition from some other House Democrats in line to lead major committees, like Energy and Commerce’s Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Transportation and Infrastructure’s Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), who think their panels are suited to handle the task of major climate legislation themselves.
  16. ^ "Action Galleries". Sunrise Movement. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  17. ^ Blumberg, Antonia (December 10, 2018). "Protesters Arrested Outside Nancy Pelosi's Office In Climate Demonstration". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  18. ^ Beckett, Lois (February 23, 2019). "'You didn't vote for me': Senator Dianne Feinstein responds to young green activists". The Guardian. Retrieved February 28, 2019. By Friday night, the video the Sunrise Movement shared on Twitter, which had been edited and focused on clips of the most tense moments from the meeting, had been viewed more than 3m times.
  19. ^ Kelly, Caroline (February 23, 2019). "Dianne Feinstein's climate change discussion with schoolchildren gets heated". CNN. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  20. ^ Irby, Kate (February 25, 2019). "Judge for yourself: Full video of Dianne Feinstein talking to children about the Green New Deal". McClatchyDC. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  21. ^ Friedman, Lisa (February 22, 2019). "Dianne Feinstein Lectures Children Who Want Green New Deal, Portraying It as Untenable". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 23, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  22. ^ Arrieta-Kenna, Ruairí (June 16, 2019). "The Sunrise Movement Actually Changed the Democratic Conversation. So What Do You Do For a Sequel?". Politico Magazine. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  23. ^ Perez, Tom (June 11, 2019). "Climate Change and the 2020 Debates". Archived from the original on January 7, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2019 – via Medium.
  24. ^ Hirji, Zahra; Cramer, Ruby (June 27, 2019). "Young Climate Protesters Are Rattling The Democratic National Committee". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  25. ^ Blaine, Kyle (July 25, 2019). "CNN to host climate crisis town hall with 2020 Democratic candidates". CNN. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  26. ^ Brady, Jeff (August 22, 2019). "Activists Push Democrats On Climate Change, A New Priority For Party's Base". Morning Edition. NPR. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  27. ^ Levy, Adam; Santiago, Leyla (August 24, 2019). "Democratic National Committee votes against climate change debate". CNN. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  28. ^ "We Are Wide Awake". Sunrise Movement. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  29. ^ Johnson, Brad. "Sunrise Movement Launches "Wide Awake" Campaign Confronting Politicians At Their Doorsteps". Hill Heat. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  30. ^ "Protesters at Betsy DeVos' mansion say push for in-person classes puts students, staff in danger". mlive. August 21, 2020. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  31. ^ Weber, Evan (November 28, 2019). "Sunrise Movement 2020 Presidential Endorsement Process". Medium. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  32. ^ Movement, Sunrise (January 9, 2020). "Sunrise Movement endorses Bernie Sanders for President". Medium. Retrieved January 10, 2020.

External links[edit]